Over the past few months, the debate about loot boxes has grown louder as players call for the mechanic to be classed as gambling. And as the discussion continues, Belgium's gambling authority has just begun its very own investigation into the matter.
As reported by Belgian website VTM News earlier this week, Belgium's Gaming Commission has now opened an investigation regarding the loot boxes found in Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2. The authority licenses games of chance and in 1999, Belgium banned all games of chance which had not been licensed by the Gaming Commission. The question is whether the loot boxes found in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch violate this law.
The general director of the Gaming Commission, Peter Naessens, said that "Therein lies the problem. It depends on luck and at that point you're gambling. If we are dealing with a game of chance, they need to have a permit." Naessens also suggested that a game with gambling mechanics could pose a threat to minors who would feel social pressure to spend a lot of money on those games.
EA and Activision Blizzard, the companies behind Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch (respectively) could potentially face fines of hundreds of thousands of Euros, said Naessens. It is also possible that the games will be removed from sale.
The news of this Belgian investigation comes not long after Blizzard president and co-founder Mike Morhaime said that the loot box controversy does not affect Overwatch. Morhaime suggested that loot boxes are only gambling when the items found in the crates can be traded for real money. But clearly, not everyone agrees with that position and the Belgian authorities may decide that any game with randomized boxes of items falls under the definition of 'gambling'.
The investigation also follows EA and DICE's decision to change the Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot box and progression system following mass backlash from fans. While the changes to the system did seem to change some peoples' minds about the game and its business model, this hasn't done enough to get gambling authorities off its back.
At this point, it's unclear what other implications the Belgian investigation could have and whether other games will also be affected by the outcome. Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch are not the only games with loot boxes, after all, and many players will be following the investigation closely to see what happens next.
Source: VTM News